America’s largest bank, JPMorgan Chase, has agreed to pay the U.S. Virgin Islands $75 million in a landmark settlement over allegations that the financial institution benefited from and helped facilitate the sex trafficking of underage girls and women by Jeffrey Epstein.
While JPMorgan admitted no culpability, the settlement — along with other recent bank settlements with Epstein’s victims — could prompt financial institutions to adopt stricter measures to recognize and report suspicious financial activities involving possible human trafficking.
The lawsuit, filed by the USVI against the bank in 2022, revealed devastating details about both JPMorgan’s relationship with Epstein, as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands’ failure to oversee and investigate a convicted sex offender who routinely ferried girls and young women through St. Thomas to his private island on his corporate jet for more than a decade.
Epstein is alleged to have sexually abused more than 200 victims at his various homes around the world, including on his remote island in the USVI, named Little Saint James, and at his estate in Palm Beach, Florida. He died in prison in 2019, awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges. His death was ruled a suicide.
Separately, JPMorgan reached a confidential settlement with its former top executive, James “Jes” Staley, who has been accused of hindering the bank’s effort to drop Epstein as a client after learning he was under investigation on sex charges. Staley has denied allegations that he knew about and was in any way complicit in Epstein’s crimes.
Earlier, the USVI also reached a settlement with another Epstein associate, billionaire Leon Black, who paid the territory $62.5 million to avoid any legal claims.
The JPMorgan agreement marks the first time a government has brought a civil action against a bank under federal anti-trafficking laws. It comes just weeks before trial was scheduled in Manhattan and days after the Miami Herald published a story that spotlighted how the USVI was collecting millions of dollars in Epstein-related settlements even though evidence collected during the case showed that it, too, was blind to Epstein’s trafficking for decades.
Ariel Smith, the USVI’s attorney general, had sought $190 million from the bank. Though settling for less than half, she nevertheless hailed the agreement as a victory for Epstein’s survivors, one that sends a powerful warning to financial institutions.
The agreement “should sound the alarm on Wall Street about banks’ responsibilities under the law to detect and prevent human trafficking,” Smith said in a news release.
Spencer Kuvin, who represents nine Epstein survivors, said the victims hope the settlement will stop all enablers — including government authorities, business and academic institutions — from being blinded by money.
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